US News rates COE first in state; five specialties nationally ranked

UF’s College of Education remained the top ranked education college in Florida and among public institutions in the Southeastern Conference, while its special education and counselor education programs maintained top 10 national ratings in their specialties in the latest U.S. News and World Report rankings of America’s Best Graduate Schools, which were announced Tuesday (March 12) by the magazine.

Three other UF education specialties gained top 20 ratings: in elementary teacher education (18th), curriculum and instruction (18th) and education administration and supervision (20th).

The COE ranked 30th among the nation’s public education colleges and 40th overall, with the college’s scores improving in five of six quality measures assessed in the rankings survey and matched last year’s score in another category. U.S. News ranked UF’s special education and counselor education programs sixth and eighth, respectively, in their specialty areas.

“We say every year, whether we rise or drop, that we don’t live or die by the U.S. News rankings. They are largely subjective and often there’s not much difference in schools rated within five to ten spots of each other,” said UF education Dean Glenn Good.  “But many prospective students and the general public pay attention to the rankings, so we must, as well.

“Our improved scores in almost every category show we’re heading in the right direction. Last year we climbed 18 spots in the rankings. We’re aiming for a national standing in the top 10 in the next few years, and we think we can get there by continuing to assess and improve our programs.”

The college’s special education and counselor education programs consistently rank in the top 10 and often among the top five nationally. Counselor education has previously held the top spot in the U.S. News rankings (in 1997).

The U.S. News rankings are calculated based on a weighted average of nine measures, eight of which are listed on the U.S. News website listings. Data on the remaining category—percent of faculty holding funded research awards—were not immediately available.

The College of Education matched its score from last year in peer assessment (by a poll of U.S. education school deans and graduate studies program heads), which accounted for one-fourth of the total weighted calculation, and improved over last year in five of six other categories. Those improvements occurred in:

  • Assessment by school superintendents nationwide (weighted by 15 percent)
  • Doctoral application acceptance rate (6 percent),
  • Doctoral degrees granted per faculty member (5 percent),
  • Total research expenditures (15 percent)
  • Average research expenditures per faculty member (15 percent).

The college’s doctoral student-to-faculty ratio (weighted by 4.5 percent) increased from three students to six students per faculty member; this was the only category in which the college did not improve or match. In another category gauging student selectivity (weighted 12 percent), U.S. News used a new scale for GRE scores, making comparisons with last year’s average scores invalid.

Good cited dramatic increases in external research funding as cause for optimism in improving the college’s future national standing.

“College research expenditures have tripled over the past five years, reaching nearly $18 million in 2012. That’s 20 percent more than the previous year and works out to more than a quarter-million-dollars in funding for each faculty member,” Good said. “Our faculty scholars produce vital knowledge that is improving professional education practices across the state, nation and world.”

The complete U.S. News Best Graduate Schools 2014 rankings data are available online at:

SOURCE: Dean Glenn Good, UF College of Education,, 352-273-4135
WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education;; 352-273-4137

UF, county to celebrate International Children’s Book Day

On April 2, join the College of Education and Alachua County in celebrating International Children’s Book Day.

The event, which is sponsored by the University of Florida, Alachua County Library District, Santa Fe College and St. Leo University, will offer a variety of activities, including book displays at UF’s Education and Baldwin libraries and a presentation by storyteller Barry Steward Mann. The College of Education’s Ruth Lowery, an associate professor of children’s literacy and a state representative for the United States Board on Books for Young People, is the event coordinator.

Mann will be speaking at UF’s Smathers Library from 2 to 3 p.m. and at Alachua County’s Library Headquarters, 401 East University Ave., at 5 p.m.

Peter Sis, an internationally-renown and award-winning illustrator, will be the headliner of the day with a presentation and book signing at 7 p.m. at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, 1080 SW 11th St.

Sis has written and illustrated more than 60 books for both adults and children, including Madlenka, Starry Messenger, and The Tree of Life.

For more information, visit

INDEPENDENT FLORIDA ALLIGATOR: Colombia law school human rights center

Independent Florida Alligator
Colombia law school human rights center

The Independent Florida Alligator reported that the University of Florida’s College of Education has partnered with the Levin College of Law and the Center for Latin American Studies to create a human rights center at two law schools in Colombia with a $757,200 grant from the U.S. government. Pilar Mendoza, an assistant professor in higher education administration at the COE, was quoted in the article about her involvement in the project.

, ,

UF education researchers recognized at state research conference

Several University of Florida education researchers were honored at this year’s Florida Educational Research Association annual meeting, hosted last month by the College of Education at UF’s Hilton Conference Center Hotel.

Walter Leite, an associate professor of research and evaluation methodology (REM), and his research assistant Francisco Jimenez, a Ph.D. student, received the conference’s Distinguished Paper Award. They were recognized for their paper evaluating the effects of the Teacher Leadership for School Improvement (TLSI) degree program offered for prekindergarten through 12th-grade teachers. The graduate program is a joint project of the college’s School of Teaching and Learning and the UF Lastinger Center for Learning.

Leite and Jimenez developed statistical models following 10 years of performance by 78 third- through fifth-grade teachers’ who are currently enrolled or graduated from the program. They compared the teachers’ effects on students they had taught prior to their TLSI coursework to their effects after joining the program.

The study revealed that the students exposed to these teachers had improved their FCAT math and reading scores, and reduced their school absences.

“The most important finding of our study is that the TLSI program, which is unique to the College of Education and the Lastinger Center, is positively affecting schools,” Leite said. “It also shows that the work done by the college and Lastinger Center matters.”


Also recognized at the conference was professor Mirka Koro-Ljungberg, who received the Educational Researcher of the Year award for her contributions to educational research. Koro-Ljungberg is a professor in REM. In the past two years, she has authored or co-authored 11 peer-reviewed papers.

For Koro-Ljungberg, a qualitative researcher, the award came as a surprise because quantitative research is often seen as dominant, she said. Qualitative research is the practice of analyzing personal and narrative accounts, such as interviews, focus groups, observations, artifacts and oral histories. On the other hand, quantitative research often involves larger samples and relies on numbers and statistics.

“I hope this will motivate people to do more and present more qualitative research in the future,” she said.

Others honored at the meeting were UF doctoral students Kristi Cheyney (in special education), Nicole Jean-Paul (school psychology) and Jean Theurer (REM), who received awards for the best overall project posters.

For more information about the Florida Educational Research Association, visit

SOURCE: Walter Leite, 352-273-4302,
SOURCE: Mirka Koro-Ljungberg, 352-273-4304,
WRITER: Alexa Lopez, 352-273-4449,
MEDIA RELATIONS: Larry Lansford, 352-273-4137,


UF education, dentistry schools team up to sharpen dental faculty’s teaching skills

For years, University of Florida education scholar Linda Behar-Horenstein has dreamed of helping UF dental faculty sharpen their teaching skills and chairside manner as they perform precise dental procedures on their patients.

Behar-Horenstein, who has been teaching at the College of Education Department of Educational Administration and Policy since 1992, has always had an interest in the communication between health-care teaching professionals and their students and patients.

Her dream was realized when the College of Dentistry recently received a five-year $2.5 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Behar-Horenstein, co-principal investigator for the grant, has been working with the College of Dentistry since 1996, when she was asked

to observe the extent to which faculty were promoting critical thinking skills in clinics. Today, she is an affiliate professor in the college’s Department of Community Dentistry and Behavioral Science, as well as a Distinguished Teaching Scholar in both the colleges of Education and Dentistry.

The grant’s focus is on enhancing faculty’s teaching repertoire through instruction, and incorporating cultural competency and motivational interviewing, among other skills that are important for serving dental patients. The dental school received another grant three years ago worth $3.5 million aimed at providing pre-doctoral dentistry students with similar patient-centered skills.

“The idea is to help develop new and better skills in our faculty,” said Frank Catalanotto, who first invited Behar-Horenstein to the college about 16 years ago when he was dean. Catalanotto is the co-principal investigator for the grant. “If the grant is successful, our students will be better dentists when they go out into practice. Better dentists are going to improve the health of the public.”

Behar-Horenstein first became fascinated with professors’ differing teaching styles after taking a course with a frustrating professor in graduate school. When she realized she would have to teach herself the material, Behar-Horenstein started studying the styles of all her instructors, making a mental inventory of strategies that either promoted or prevented student learning.

“This issue is very important to me because I think professors’ research and training greatly affects the teaching that their students receive,” said Behar-Horenstein.

Over the years, she has traveled across the country showing instructors how to teach critical thinking and active learning skills. Behar-Horenstein now enjoys discussing with UF dentistry professors how to be engaging, interactive and productive in their teaching.

“The grant supports faculty in teaching pre-doctoral students how to become patient-centered in their communication,” Behar-Horenstein said. “If faculty haven’t had the opportunity to learn these teaching skills, it will be very difficult to model that.”

As a co-PI for the latest federal grant, Behar-Horenstein will lead online classes, webinars and presentations for faculty and help them with research projects and surveying their progress in the classroom and clinical learning environments

“I’m an internal resource because they can come to me seeking counsel or advice,” Behar-Horenstein said. “Talking with a colleague who understands teaching sometimes opens doors for others who may be experiencing challenges and reassures them that it’s really OK. We all go through this. Being an instructor requires growth and reflection.”

SOURCE: Linda Behar-Horenstein, distinguished teaching scholar and professor at UF College of Education, distinguished teaching scholar and affiliate professor at UF College of Dentistry;; 352-273-4330

WRITER: Alexa Lopez, new media coordinator, news and communications, UF College of Education;; 352-273-4449

MEDIA LIAISON: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education;; 352-273-4137


Gainesville Sun, Ocala Star-Banner
Linda Behar-Horenstein

The Gainesville Sun and the Ocala Star-Banner quoted Behar-Horenstein in an article about a $2.5 million grant that was awarded to the College of Dentistry for the improvement of faculty education. Behar-Horenstein, who has a co-affiliation with the College of Dentistry and College of Education, is the co-principal investigator for the grant.


Washington ‘Knight-ed’ for quest to revive civic learning, citizenship involvement

Professor Elizabeth Washington

As part of a $3 million campaign to strengthen civic learning and involvement, UF education  professor Elizabeth Washington was recently named a Knight Effective Citizens Fellow by the university’s Bob Graham Center for Public Service to help develop and test a novel online civics course for UF undergraduates.

Washington will join a work group of newly appointed Knight fellows in the project in an effort to strengthen students’ civic knowledge and involvement in democratic citizenship activities. After evaluation at UF, the online course will be made available to universities across the nation.

The course development is one of five civic-learning projects funded by a $3-million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The grant also supports four other initiatives promoting civic involvement including the use of social media, ways to engage public discussion and evaluation of current civic learning and engagement programs.

With severe school budget cutbacks and the emphasis on standardized tests mainly in reading, science and math, Washington said the amount of time and effort devoted to teaching subjects such as civics, American history and government is seriously declining in public schools.

Washington is a national expert and advocate for civics education and citizen involvement. She is a professor in the School of Teaching and Learning at the College of Education and a Senior Fellow with the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship and the Bob Graham Center, where she works to improve civics education standards in Florida.

As a Knight fellow, she will work with one of her former students, Emma Humphries, who was hired by the Graham Center upon completion of her doctoral degree earlier this year to fill the grant-funded position of assistant scholar in citizenship. Humphries will coordinate the fellows’ work group and its course development activities.

The Bob Graham Center was created in 2008 by former Sen. Graham to give UF students an opportunity to experience political leadership and involvement outside of the classroom and a firm grounding in democratic government. The Knight fellows are working on the course curriculum with plans to offer the course to UF students in next spring.


UF launches $1.5 million effort to restructure teacher-preparation programs

Aided by a $1.5-million federal grant, the University of Florida has announced plans to restructure the College of Education’s special education teacher-preparation program to meet increasingly higher national standards for new teachers.

Co-researchers McLeskey and Cox

Like many American education colleges, UF is revamping its teacher-education programs to include more practical teaching experience. UF special education professors James McLeskey and Penny Cox are leading the effort.

Politicians, federal education officials and policymakers are holding U.S. colleges of education accountable for teacher education—and ultimately for student learning—as never before. Many cite the need for more hands-on classroom and field experience in teacher preparation programs.

Students in UF’s unified elementary ProTeach program complete a five-year blend of coursework and hands-on teaching experiences, resulting in a master’s degree in elementary education and the option of dual certification in K-12 special education.

McLeskey said UF’s special education program, ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report’s annual survey of America’s Best Graduate Schools, already integrates its theoretical and real-world teaching experiences. Under the grant, though, the researchers are working to relate the two more closely by applying research on effective instructional practices with work being done in real-world classrooms.

The UF effort, funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs, is called Project RITE—short for Restructuring and Improving Teacher Education. McLeskey and Cox will collaborate with special education professionals across the nation to ensure UF’s ProTeach graduates will be well prepared to improve educational outcomes for students with disabilities.

The researchers will develop a statewide mentoring program that pairs each new special education graduate at UF with an experienced classroom teacher who will provide support and feedback in their first year of teaching. Mentor teachers will be selected in collaboration with local school district administrators for their knowledge of effective teaching methods, experience, and effectiveness in improving outcomes for students who struggle learning basic skills. The program emphasizes high-need schools to better prepare students for Florida’s diverse classrooms.

“Florida is a ‘majority minority’ now,” McLeskey said. “Wherever you go, you’re going to get students from different cultural backgrounds.” McLeskey is UF’s former chair of special education and also directs the college’s Center on Disability and Policy Practice.

“Increasingly, our student-teachers need to learn things in natural contexts, which means they need to spend more time in schools,” he said. “We’re moving teacher preparation much further in the direction of building everything into what they’re doing in the classroom.”

Cox said UF ProTeach students will begin to see the instructional changes next fall.


SOURCES:  James McLeskey, professor of special education, UF College Education;; 352-273-4278

MEDIA RELATIONS: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137;

WRITER: Jessica Bradley, communications intern, UF College of Education.

Middle school reform is goal of professors, local educators in UF scholars program

The University of Florida’s College of Education has launched a professional scholars program–teaming UF education faculty with Alachua County middle-school teachers and district administrators–to ignite a grassroots movement to reform the nation’s troubled middle-school education system.

Three UF education professors and four Alachua County middle school teachers were introduced as members of the inaugural class of the Shewey Scholars program recently at a reception at UF’s Norman Hall.

The program is funded under a $600,000 endowment created three years ago by Fred and Christine Shewey of Gainesville, who made the gift as a tribute to their daughter-in-law, Kathy Shewey, a prominent figure in middle-level education in Alachua County and around the nation for more than 30 years. The Shewey Excellence in Middle School Education Fund supports new research and programs aimed at middle school reform and enhancement.

photo of 2011-12 Shewey Scholars

Newly appointed Shewey Scholars are, back row, Maureen Shankman, Darby Delane, Colleen Swain, Odalis Manduley and Donna Reid; Front row are Kathy Shewey, Paul George and Nancy Dana. Not pictured are Phillip Koslowski and Joy Schadkow

The newly appointed Shewey scholars from the college faculty are Colleen Swain (curriculum and instruction), Darby Delane (university-school partnerships coordinator for the School of Teaching and Learning) and Joy Schackow (STL/Lastinger Center professor-in-residence in Pinellas County schools). Alachua County educators receiving yearlong appointments are Maureen Shankman (Loften middle grades curriculum teacher), Odalis Manduley (Westwood Middle School Spanish teacher), Donna Reid (Lincoln Middle School English education teacher) and Phillip Koslowski (school district coordinator of the Positive Behavior Support program).

Professor Nancy Dana, who heads the advisory group for the Shewey Fund, will steer the scholars program, assisted by Paul George, a UF distinguished professor emeritus in education who has been identified by Middle School Journal as the nation’s “number-one ranking scholar” in middle grades education. Kathy Shewey, supervisor of staff development for Alachua County public schools, also is involved.

The scholars’ first group activity was attending the Florida League of Middle Schools’ annual conference together last month in Sarasota. The Shewey Scholars program covered their travel and registration expenses.

“By immersing themselves at the conference in the discussion of middle school practice and current issues facing middle level educators, the Shewey scholars helped to spark a renewed interest in middle-level education and future partnership work between UF and Alachua County schools in middle-school teaching practice,” Dana said.

She said the scholars will reconvene in the fall to share their experiences and plan future middle school reform activities with other local middle school teachers and administrators.

Paul George

While UF scholars—including Paul George—were among the first, some 40 years ago, to campaign for the creation of separate transitional schools to meet the needs of children in early adolescence, they also are among the first to publicly call for reform and a reexamination of middle schools in today’s school system. George recently headed a panel of Florida educators that produced an assessment of critical issues for middle school reform in Florida.

Early work funded by the Shewey endowment includes two research studies conducted to capture the current state of middle level education and document how high-stakes standardized testing and accountability is shaping middle school education.

At last month’s FLMS conference, George presented an historical perspective of the middle school movement and said it’s more important than ever for middle-grades educators to “hang tough.”

“Many middle schools are no longer serving their original function,” said George, who retired from teaching in 2007 but remains active in his specialty field. “Many schools are too large and too focused on standardized testing to meet the special developmental needs of adolescents. We are looking at ways to improve instruction that is appropriate for students in their early teens.”


Source: Nancy Dana, professor, School of Teaching & Learning, UF College of Education, 352-273-4204;
Source: Paul George, distinguished professor emeritus, UF College of Education, 352-372-4615,
: Larry Lansford, UF COE News & Communications, 352-273-4137;